Dear Harlan: I always have the same problem with relationships. I start to like someone and get closer to them, but when they start to show interest in me I panic. I worry that I don’t want to be with them anymore. It’s like I want what I can’t have. Have you heard of this? Why does this keep happening?
Dear Looking: Do you love the chase? Or do you fear commitment? Which one? Can’t choose? Pick both. Some people love being wanted. It’s exciting. I love when anyone wants me. The thrill of the chase is a big adrenaline rush. It’s the same reason people get phone numbers and never call or text the next day. You don’t have a relationship problem; it could be a craving attention and seeking affirmation problem. On the other hand, the problem could be a fear of intimacy. Maybe you’ve been hurt in the past and getting close means possibly getting hurt again. Maybe you need to build trust before you can be vulnerable and get physical. Want to try something new? Try meeting people in situations where you can form a friendship built on trust. Find people who share common interests. Do things together that don’t involve kissing. Make the relationship less about the hunt and more about shared experiences over time. When you get scared, give yourself permission to be scared. Go slow, lean into the feelings and see what happens next. If you still can’t commit, unpack these feelings. Explore them with a therapist and learn a little bit more about yourself. Once you have a support system in place it will be easier to give yourself permission to open up and not panic.